Prometheus in the Pinelands
Everything that can come through fire, you must pass through fire. Then it will be pure. 1
Before Prometheus gave fire to Homo sapiens, he had already given it to a very long list of other species. You see, fire destroys habitats, true. But it also creates them. A roaring fire transforms the land so completely that the survivors might as well be on another planet. Shade vanishes and light streams in. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—the basic nutrients on which life depends—flood the landscape in abundance; the fire sets them free from their organic prisons in wood, in stems, and in leaves. Fire yields mass death, and mass death yields opportunity.
For a very long time, we Westerners saw only the deaths. We fought fires wherever they tried to start. We invented Smokey the Bear to help us perpetuate our one-sided view. We enlisted the military to sweep over fires in old bombers, releasing smothering slurries and choking off an important natural force of renewal.
It had not always been so. North America's first citizens, especially those that lived on its prairies, well knew the virtues of fire. They set fires intentionally, keeping the tall grasses thriving for the bison on which their lives depended.
Even more so did Australia's first citizens. For 40,000 years, aboriginal Australians started fires regularly. They kept track of when they had